Review: ‘Christine Ebersole’

Crystalline-voiced singer and actress Christine Ebersole treats her audience to a beautifully balanced range of familiar and not so-familiar ballads, cabaret songs and show tunes, while interjecting often hilarious commentary on her own life and times.

In a manner reminiscent of ’40s singer/comedian Dorothy Shay (“The Park Avenue Hillbilly”), two-gun toting Christine Ebersole spends the early portion of her Cinegrill outing drawling such Western ditties as “Crossbone County,” “It’s a Good Day” and Gordon Jenkins’ ode to early valley life, “San Fernando Valley.” Once she holsters the guns (she calls them “Chucky” and “Heston”), this crystalline-voiced singer and actress treats her audience to a beautifully balanced range of familiar and not so-familiar ballads, cabaret songs and show tunes, while interjecting often hilarious commentary on her own life and times.

Ebersole, who is introducing her latest CD, “Live at the Cinegrill,” is aided immensely by the gentle guidance of director Scott Whittman and the intuitive accompaniment of music director David Snyder, bassist John Smith and guitarist Joe Jewell, the same personnel who backed her on the CD.

Oddly enough, it’s a song not on her CD — a throbbing, torch-song version of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Some Enchanted Evening” — through which Ebersole simply soars, that’s the highlight of the evening.

Her CD material is pretty good, too. Ebersole is a wonderfully droll comic who segues seamlessly from words to music on such subjects as being bi-coastal (David Frishberg’s “Do You Miss New York”), her Mexican divorce from her first husband (“The Animal in the Pit”) and the grammatical pitfalls of talking to children all day (“No Doubt About it”).

Through all the patter and melody-making, it is Ebersole’s astounding musicianship and vocal clarity that makes the most profound impression. The haunting Kurt Weill/Ira Gershwin ballad “My Ship” is turned into a virtuoso jazz concert number as she effortlessly indulges in some soulful scatting, emulating perfectly the sound of a muted trumpet.

Christine Ebersole

Cinegrill; 200 seats; $15

Production

Presented inhouse. Opened and reviewed Aug. 25, 1998; runs until Aug. 29.

Cast

Band: David Snyder; John Smith, Joe Jewell.
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